The Power of an Almanac

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Well, here we are again. Welcome back! I hope everyone has had a great week. Let’s dive right in, shall we?

In last week’s issue, we took a look at the title of this newsletter and spent some time investigating what it means to be a polymath. This week, we’re going to finish things up and zoom in on the idea of keeping an almanac and look at the power it can bring to your life.

If you’ve been to a grocery store, you’ve probably stood in line at the checkout counter and seen some version of an almanac. One of the more popular ones is The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Benjamin Franklin, the famous polymath we discussed in our last issue, also wrote an annual almanac called Poor Richard’s Almanack.

Almanacs have been around for centuries (as far back as the Babylonians) and were originally concerned with recording significant celestial events. These events were tracked year after year and, as a result, were eventually used to try and predict what the coming year had in store. Almanacs originally tracked things like what days that there would be an eclipse, times of the sunrise and sunsets throughout the year, as well as a multitude of speculative information such as weather forecasts and planting dates.

For centuries, civilizations have been interested in the activities of the heavens and earth. These observations were meticulously tracked and recorded, and eventually used to govern some of the most important aspects of the culture. Farmers would plant and harvest their crops according to the time of year and the expected weather patterns (based on historical data). One of the best-known examples of this is the Egyptian’s tracking of the star Sirius and its association with the flooding of the Nile river, which they based much of their farming rhythms around.

It seems as though many ancient cultures (Babylonians, Greeks, Egyptians, etc.), all the way through the Medieval period, up until the modern day have had some sort of almanac-like recording mechanism in place.

Although the original roots of the almanac can be tied to the recording of astronomical events and terrestrial occurrences, over the years, the scope of what was recorded and predicted slowly grew to include other phenomena such as the rising and lowering of the tides, daily temperatures, and other statistical data. Eventually, more modern-day almanacs widened their scope of content to include other topics such as agricultural wisdom, holistic medicine remedies, business, general health, and other types of peripheral advice.

Here’s the central idea I’d like to pause and highlight - I believe that the power of an almanac is not in what it tries to predict. Rather, the power of the almanac is in the meticulous recording and analysis of what has already happened.

Just as the Egyptians watched the heavens year after year and noticed that the rising of Sirius corresponded to the flooding of the Nile river we too can harness the power of recording significant events in hopes that we may discover underlying patterns in our lives - both good and bad.

Think of it like journaling with a specific purpose.

There are all sorts of powerful side-effects we could benefit from by developing a rhythm of recording the events and other pieces of information in our lives:

  • It creates a record of what you have studied or learned.
  • It gives you a reference from which you can tease out patterns in your life.
  • It helps you pay attention to your life.
  • It helps you “think” and explore your thoughts.
  • It frees your mind up to think about other things.
  • It helps you know when something begins to go off the tracks.
  • For some people, it reduces stress.

Artist and writer, Austin Kleon put it well when he wrote that “Diaries are evidence of our days.” In fact, he has several posts discussing the practice of keeping notebooks or logbooks that are worth a read.

So, I want to encourage you to begin to think about the benefit of keeping records of your life. You can make the process as high-level or detailed as you want. There’s no wrong way. See if you experience any of the benefits I mentioned above.

Resources

If you’re curious to learn more about the history of almanacs or would like some more in-depth information about starting the process of recording your own life events, defining moments, and information learned, the following resources might be of interest to you.

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Websites & Pages

Famous Journals & Codex